Ohio History Journal

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New Light from a Lincoln Letter

New Light from a Lincoln Letter

On the Story of the Publication

Of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates






AN ABRAHAM LINCOLN LETTER that adds another link to

the chain of known events that led to publication in Columbus

in 1860 of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates lies unheralded in

the library of the Ohio Historical Society. It sheds a little

more light on what David C. Mearns, chief of the manu-

scripts division of the Library of Congress, Lincoln authority,

and historian, describes as "mysteries undispelled" in the

political winds that swirled around the Ohio capital in the

fateful election year that saw a president named on the eve

of the Civil War.1 It also suggests possible evidence of the

long-hinted existence of a second scrapbook of the debates

which has plagued historians for years.

The joint debates brought Lincoln and Douglas face to face

at Ottawa, Freeport, Jonesboro, Charleston, Galesburg,

Quincy, and Alton (in the seven Illinois congressional dis-

tricts) in the order named, beginning on August 21, 1858, and

ending on the following October 15. Historians agree that the

publicity Lincoln gained in that contest made him a national

figure and put him in line for the presidential nomination.

Lincoln, alert to the tide running in his favor, sought to

* Robert S. Harper is public information officer of the Ohio Historical Society.

1 The Library of Congress, the Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana,

The Illinois Political Campaign of 1858: A Facsimile of the Printer's Copy of His

Debates with Senator Stephen Arnold Douglas as Edited and Prepared for Press

by Abraham Lincoln, Introduction by David C. Mearns (Washington, D. C.,

1958). Hereafter cited as Mearns.